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Record-setting night for Matsui10/17/2004 3:12 AM ET
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Yankee fans never forget these games.
Reggie Jackson made his reputation in October, famously serving as the straw that stirred New York's drink. Hideki Matsui is in that class and in that glass -- call him the cube that keeps rising to the top. The left fielder added a page to his team's storied history with five runs scored and five RBIs on Saturday night, helping the Yanks to a 19-8 win over Boston.
"He's ice cold. He's cool under pressure, and I think that's the most important ingredient," said Joe Torre, New York's manager. "We all know he's talented and we all know he's strong. He never gives away an at-bat. Evidence: We have this big lead and he has a two-run home run last time up."
It wasn't just one home run. Matsui hit two against the Red Sox as part of an astonishing five-hit performance. Matsui is just the second player to record five hits in an LCS game. The Orioles' Paul Blair was the first to accomplish the feat, back on Oct. 6, 1969. Among the five hits, Matsui had two doubles, raising his series slugging percentage to ridiculous levels (1.267).
"I don't know. It might be possible, but I'm not sure," he said through an interpreter when asked if it was his best game ever. "A couple of years down the road when I look back, I may think so."
"Matsui can hit, man," said Derek Jeter, who hits three spots ahead of him. "He's a streaky hitter. When he's hot, he's tough to pitch to. This is as good as I've seen him in a while."
It may be as good as he's ever played. Matsui, a star of the highest order in Japan, is just starting to emerge in North America. He was a key member of last year's pennant-winner, and this year he's stepped forward as an even bigger difference-maker.
"Last year, he was trying to feel his way around and see what he was capable of. This year, we see a different hitter," said Torre. "I mean, when I say different, the fact that he's hitting more home runs this year. I think last year, he just wanted to get a feel for pitching in this league and get to know them a little better."
The Red Sox know him just fine -- and they probably don't like him much. Matsui hit .361 against Boston in the regular season, blasting four homers and 18 RBIs in 19 games.
He's stepped it up even more in the playoffs, pushing the Yanks to the precipice of clinching their 40th American League pennant. One more win and Matsui goes to the Fall Classic for the second time in as many years.
"As a player, it's a great thrill. I'm very thankful to be part of a team like this," he said. "We have a strong intention of getting a world championship, and I'm happy to be a part of it."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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